How Long Should a Teen Be Grounded?

Your daughter came in past curfew without calling. Your son decided that socializing with girls at school was more important than studying -- for an entire month. Though your blood may be boiling, give yourself time to calm down before you issue punishment for your teen. Keeping your teens at home and keeping them from doing activities they enjoy -- often known as "grounding" -- may boost the odds that their negative behaviors are not repeated.

Best Time Frame

Ideally, groundings should range from several hours up to several days, depending on the severity of the grievance, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics. Planning ahead of time and writing down the rules your teen must follow, as well as the punishment for violating them, can also work to your benefit. If teens are aware ahead of time that breaking curfew means a one-day grounding, it could mean less resistance and boost the odds that your teen sees the punishment through. Groundings that last much longer than a day start to lose their effectiveness.


After your son receives a failing report card, you may reflexively issue a one-month grounding. Rather than making your son especially sorry for what he did, it may make him especially likely to rebel, points out the AAP. When undergoing a severe punishment, teens may feel they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by breaking the rules. Parents are also less likely to enforce a longer grounding, as one parent may need to be home to supervise a grounded teenager.


Just as a long-term grounding may leave a teenager rebelling, a grounding that is too short may leave teens asking, "Is that all?" Punishing your teen for a few hours, like keeping your son from using the car one evening or keeping your daughter home for a few hours after school, is unlikely to yield results. Parents should seek a teen's input on rules ahead of time and come up with punishments together, according to Texas Women's University Counseling Center. You may find that teens impose longer-term punishments than you would in the same situation.

Additional Information

Knowing how to best punish your teenager and for how long can be stressful. Your teen's doctor may be able to give you some guidance on effective ways to punish your teen and how to reduce negative behavior in the future. If you do issue a grounding, the way you handle it can often have the greatest impact on its success. After you specify a time limit for the grounding, changing it can only reduce its effectiveness.

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